By Manus Loughran
Ultan Lennon really helped his side dig deep with some fine scores after their flat first half against Maghery on Sunday to clinch a place in Armagh’s Senior Football Championship Final.
In fairness to both sides the conditions weren’t exactly ideal and each had to play against a very strong wind for half of the match. Maghery used the breeze to their advantage in the first and outplayed the Harps restricting the city side to just three points. Harps didn’t let this disappointing opening affect their morale and came out fighting in the second. They shattered Maghery’s five point advantage and took the lead in just seven minutes. After that they never looked back much thanks to the sublime accuracy of Ultan Lennon who never missed one free kick in the second half which helped his side push towards a six point victory.
Maghery’s Conor Mackle scored a point in the opening play to put Maghery ahead, Lennon soon responded for Harps with a nice score from the right hand side. But Harps didn’t stay on level terms for too long as Ronan Lappin grabbed a point for Maghery and not even one minute later, the big man set up Paul Forker for the first goal of the game to put them ahead 1-02 to 0-01 after seven minutes.
Harps knocked over the next two scores, first coming from Charlie Vernon who was seeing plenty of the ball in the early stages, and Ultan Lennon converted a free kick from 14 yards after the menacing Simon McCoy was brought down.
The game then went through a fairly scrappy period as neither side managed to grab a score for over ten minutes – several scuffles also broke out in this spell as both teams fought hard to retain possession in the difficult conditions.
Aidan Forker who has been impressive playing at half back in recent matches extended Maghery’s lead to three points with a free kick. The momentum stayed with Maghery right up to half time, and points from Paul and Seamus Forker meant Maghery went in at the interval 1-05 to 0-03 ahead.
Harps came out strong at the restart and Ultan Lennon slotted over three consecutive scores to reduce the deficit to just two points, the third of those a breathtaking free kick from at least 60 yards which was struck with great technique from the ground.
Paddy McCoy put Harps ahead for the first time in the game with a delightful goal, Harps corner forward run in behind Maghery’s defence and found himself in a one on one situation with Johnny Montgomery – Harps’ corner forward didn’t panic and finished off in style by casually dinking the ball over the Maghery keeper.
One point from the hard working Charlie Vernon and a further three from Lennon brought the gap to five points. Maghery’s first point of the second half didn’t come until the 51st minute when Seamus Forker knocked one over with his left.
Maghery certainly didn’t give up despite Harps’ dominance, and even managed to reduce the deficit to two points in the closing stages. But as they rallied forward seeking those scores, Harps punished them on the counter attack. Ryan McShane collected the ball and went on a terrific run and kindly passed to Declan McKenna, who then flicked it on to Paddy McCoy while going on a supporting run and fortunately for Armagh Harps their corner forward was fully aware of this and returned the ball across the face of the goal which left McKenna with the task of fisting it into an empty net.
Ultan Lennon rounded off what was a splendid day for both himself and his club with a free kick in injury time to leave the final score 2-12 to 1-09 in favour of Armagh Harps.
ARMAGH HARPS: Paddy Morrison; Kevin Morrison, Conan Lennon, Conal McKee; Mark McConville, Joe McElroy, Rory McGrath; Charles Vernon (0-02), Declan McKenna (1-00); Simon McCoy, Ultan Lennon (0-09), Karol Loughran (0-01); Ryan McShane, Conor Coulter, Paddy McCoy (1-00).
No substitute scorers
MAGHERY: Johnny Montgomery; Eoin Scullion, Oisin Lappin, Gerard Campbell; Stephen Cusack, Aidan Forker (0-01), Kevin Nugent; James Lavery, Ronan Lappin (0-01); Jack Lavery, Shea Tennyson, Conor Forker; Paul Forker (1-01), Stefan Forker (0-01), Conor Mackle (0-01).
Substitute scorers: Seamus Forker (0-04)